By Mike Rosen. Mike is a father, a 4th grade teacher and has been the lead on our Tuesday night seperation / divorce meeting since its inception.
At the risk of appearing overly self-deprecating, I’m going to begin today’s post with a very transparent and forthright admission–I’m not particularly bright.
To those who know me well this isn’t news. My siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters, I’m in the middle) could have told you this decades ago. My older sister would use any opportunity to remind/tell me “You’re dense.” Oh, be quiet Cara. For many years I didn’t believe her, figuring her unsolicited feedback around the way I showed up to the world fell under the normal purvey of sibling teasing.
I used to THINK I was bright. For example, in 1st Grade, me, Eddie Gunderlach, and Gina Puntillo would switch rooms to the 3rd Grade for Math and Reading. In 2nd Grade we’d travel to 4th Grade. As a young adult, I would often try to guess where I fell on the Global Scale/Rank of Intelligence. As a perfect, ridiculous example, that’s not even a real thing, there’s no such measure. It’s an impossible concept, yet there I was baselessly claiming I HAD to be in the Top 10%, Top 6% Globally. Easily. Right?
Ohhhh the ego, arrogance, and hubris of my Youth.
That same ego, arrogance, and hubris often fueled judgment and impacted relationships in ways I couldn’t see. No, I’m right, you’re wrong. I may not have come right out and spoke those exact words, but I would make it clear how I felt about whatever it was we were discussing. Safe to say I may not have been the easiest person to be around.
With time, practice, and awareness, that insistence on being right has slowly been supplanted with a desire to learn more about someone else’s viewpoint. Could the lens through which they see the world be as valid as mine? Yes! I sure think so. Am I capable of truly seeing the validity in a counterpoint and can I hold both to be true? Yes!
It isn’t that I was/am devoid of curiosity. In fact, being curious is a foundational piece of my profession as an elementary school teacher. “Hmmm, I don’t know. Let’s find out!” is a phrase I’ve repeated thousands of times.
When I was around eight, my curiosity led me to our home’s garage, where an old workbench, handbuilt and a presence since the house and garage were built by my Grandfather in 1953, held boxes of treasures for a curious kid. Springs, car parts, pulleys, chains, cables, aaand an old hatchet! Cool!
After a brief exam of the hatchet and curious about how well it worked, I took a swing and chipped out a chunk of the front edge of the workbench. Underneath the oil-stained top was a sliver of bright, fresh wood. Wow! Look how bright the wood is compared to the old, dirty dark wood!
Swing! Chunk. Swing! Chunk. Wow! NOW look how big the gouge is in front! Maybe a few more swings to make both sides even. Curiosity satiated, hatchet returned. End of story, right? Many days later, when my Dad saw the outcome of my handiwork, he called me to the garage for an explanation. Truth be told he was yelling, a lot. At me. Loudly. He didn’t appreciate AT ALL when my only and best explanation was a shrug. He wasn’t particularly curious about the truth behind my explanation, I can assure you of that.
As my 52nd birthday recently came and went, I used it as an opportunity to reflect on how my curiosity has evolved, how the practice of identifying where I am has become a fundamental piece in how I choose to show up in relationships with others and myself. I’ve learned that oftentimes the more insistent I am, the more certain I am about something is often a disguised invitation to look a little closer and check what I believe to be so true.
What I’ve come to understand is that in most of my personal relationships, the viewpoints that differ dramatically from my lens aren’t wrong, as I naively and arrogantly thought they were. They’re simply different and I’ve learned (am learning?) that’s Ok. You’d like to hang the toilet paper that way? Ok, well THAT’S unequivocally wrong. I’m not sure what kind of monster would live in this house and hang it like that, but…
In all seriousness, I want to extend an invitation to grant a differing viewpoint some space to exist without judgment. It might not be wrong, it might simply be different, and that’s likely Ok. I also invite you to (continue to) cultivate your curiosity, to try to find joy and wonder and awe in something, in anything. Who knows what kind of new views an old hatchet might bring? Maybe a curious young kid chopping the workbench wasn’t so wrong after all, Dad? Just different!